Power Run, Part II
“Foreman, contacts at crossroad,” Lmn. Bosinov reported over the bead. Delta squad was still crossing the access road to the warehouse across the street. The orks charging after the ore hauler bellowed as the massive truck came into view in the lee of the manufactorum. The lead ork shouted and pointed his weapon at Skg. Reed ,”Delta you’re made.”
Tm. Krasheninnikov vaulted the fence at speed, Bosinov had often wondered how the scrawny mountain man scrambled around so fast. A moment before the orks reached the rest of Delta, the squad slipped through the wooden gate and slammed it shut behind them. From his angle next to the ore hauler, Bosinov couldn’t see what was happening on the other side of the fence.
The orks bellowed, kicking at the gate.. They roared over the clitter-clatter of an overhead door opening. What in the warp are they doing?
“ Oh, ho, ho, ” Zhurov said over the bead, he was positioned several feet above Bosinov on top of the ore hauler, and could likely see the events across the fence easily. What’s that? Bosinov heard a muffled beeping over the shattering of the gate under greenskin punishment.
A few seconds later, a section of fence several meters down from the gate also exploded in splinters. Bosinov felt the Foreman’s sigh more than heard it at the beginning of his transmission.
“ Cover Krash, ” came the order. To Bosinov’s momentary shock,an industrial forklift whining across the road, yellow safety light spinning and caution tone bleeting through the night. It could only be Krasheninnikov behind the control panels. The ork runtherd immediately broke away from the gate to pursue the machine.
Snapping lasfire reached out from gamma squad at he ork and his school of grots. The child-like gremlins stumbled face-first into the pavement, but their hulking leader seemed unfazed. Moments later, the rest of Delta squad came sprinting through the break in the fence-line behind Krash.
“ Keep on the runtherd, ” the Foreman ordered. Bosinov took a breath and squeezed the trigger. Without recoil, moving components, or smoke the only indication he’d fired at all was the slight odor of ozone, half-second sustained beam of the trace laser, and near-hypersonic whine of the capacitor re-energizing. Bosinov saw a slash of smoke and vaporizing flesh erupt across the runtherd’s left arm, eliciting an angry scream but having little more effect.
Sonavumuska , these greenskins were tough, at least three other slashes had burned into the ork at the same time. The rest of the orks were screaming on the other side of the fence, Just getting started.
The forklift bounced into the parking lot of the manufactorum, out his sight behind the ore hauler, but it sounded like he was driving for the cargo door at the west end of the building. In any case, nothing Boz had to worry about for now. He fired another pair of shots at the runtherd, which finally stumbled to the ground, limbs sizzling as intense heat spread through the flesh from where the lasshots criss-crossed its body. Horrified, Boz watched as the ork, rather than writhe in agony as so many cytheran eldar and so many more soldiers of the imperium had, roared defiantly and pulled himself closer to the ore hauler.
“ Take out the followers ,” Foreman ordered. Gamma squad opened fire on the orks charging through the fence hole across the street. A hollow thump from above Boz indicated another shot from Hunter Zhurov’s grenade launcher. A shower of blood and flesh erupted from a charging ork’s shoulder as laser lanced his legs and sent tripping into the pavement.
“ Fall back to the door, ” his microbead buzzed. Boz tapped Skg. Mitin’s shoulder, and his battlemate popped-off two shots as they backed down the side of the ore hauler.
Grenades and lasfire peppered the orks, but six of them made it as far as the side the truck. Inferno grenades fell from the top of the vehicle and ignited them in flames as more grenades exploded among them. Within seconds, they were down. Foreman stepped forwards calmly, kicking weapons aside, “Clear, regroup, reload.”
“ Loading generator, ” the sound of straining hydraulics accompanied Krash’s voice over the bead. Acolyte Yanov ran to the cab and coaxed the great machine spirit to life.
“ Contact! Rear doors! ” someone shouted over the bead as shots rang out in the manufactorum. As the truck rocked with the weight of the generator, Foreman yelled loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Mount-up! Mount-Up!” Skaggis swarmed up the access ladders into the dump bucket as Krasheninnikov sprinted for the cab under a hail of ork fire. Gamma and Delta unleashed suppressive fire into the manufactorum as the vehicle rumbled forward.
With a cheer, they pulled away from the manufactorum, forklift bouncing free and crashing to the pavement. The squads fell against he walls of the bucket, breathing deeply and giving reassuring nods to one another. They weren’t out of danger yet, but they were definitely on their way out.
Boz felt the truck buck over debris, then he lost his balance as the truck pitched forward down an incline. He had to throw his leg out to stop his roll. The generator screeched past within inches of his boot. Someone shouted a warning, followed by a grunting scream of pain.
“Marge’s down!” someone shouted from the front of the bucket. Boz scrambled forward just as the truck pitched-up the other side of the stream. Shouts of alarm echoed off the steel walls, but the generator didn’t shift. They scrambled to pull the generator back to free Marge, but it was hopeless. They stared quietly at her crushed body.
Boz didn’t know the Zhurovs very well, but there wasn’t a skaggi in the VII that wasn’t part of the family. Their transport rolling over an ork firebase did little to distract them from the loss of another cousin. They charged ahead through the main battleline on the highway out of the village. Boz lay his lasgun on the edge of the bucket and fired pot shots at the greenskins on the road, finishing-off his mostly spent power pack and slapping a fresh one into place. He heard Yanov try to shout at the ghostwalker fighters, but the roar of weapons fire and howling engines overpowered his attempts.
Stray shots plinked off the heavy steel of walls, but the skaggis didn’t react. They were clear of the combat zone and on their way back to base with the objective. Boz propped himself securely against one the bucket’s heavy still ribs, staring at the trees as they passed.
This was such a strange planet. The weather was worse than Cythera, the air was thicker than even the equatorial scrub islands of that oceanic hell. On top of that, all the vegetation clogged the air with spores and pollen, and made impossible to see more than fifty feet. He hated this place, he hated trees, he hated…,”Incoming!” he shouted.
Something huge was forcing its way through the forest toward the road. The ore hauler was built for strength, not speed, and this thing was plowing through the dense terrain fast. He smashed onto the roadway behind them, tree-thick legs pounding pits into the pavement. The four meter tusks, tipped with jagged steel, swung back and forth as the great beast bellowed louder than the truck engines.
There was a haphazard structure strapped the creature’s back, and orks were hanging off it at improbable angles. The beast charged forward, narrowly missing the rear gate with the sharpened tusks. Boz looked at it in horror. Half the squad backed away from the edge of the truck in fear. Then it got worse.
The truck bounced, and Boz saw broken trees passing on either side of him. They were off the road. “Why are we off the road!” he shouted over the bead.
“ Krash is out! ” someone responded. The creature was getting closer, he could see a pair of greenskins leaning-out over the front. The beast rammed the back of the truck, shaking the entire vehicle. The pair of orks leapt from the structure, falling in muscular pile on the deck. Boz scrambled to get his weapon on target, he pulled the trigger madly, shots going wide.
“We’ve been boarded!” he gasped over the bead. There was no response, but the truck swerved drunkenly to avoid a boulder. The creature fell back and set-up for another charge. The squad fired madly into the orks aboard, felling one, the other still swinging about with his grisle-stained blade.
As the ork warbeast made another charge, the truck swerved narrowly to avoid it, but another pair of orks leapt onto the truck. Gamma and Delta were beginning to recover, and the second ork was now tumbling over the edge. One of the greenskins fired a volley at random into the skaggis, and the foreman screamed out in pain as his leg was blasted through, staining the rusting truck bed.
The skaggis leapt into knife-fighting postures, weaving around the heavy, slow limbs of the boarders. Yanov fired his laspistol point blank, slashing a growing trench of fire in the larger ork’s thigh. It responded by smashing down on his hand, and the acolyte reeled, howling, as his fingerless-hand sprayed blood across the squad. Someone landed a killing stab in the smaller ork’s main ganglia, sending it into a spasm, but failing to fell it. Vishenko was tossed like a child’s toy against the steel wall and slumped to floor dazed.
Boz drew his pistol and rolled under a green fist, firing twice. Flames leapt from the ork’s thigh and it howled almost as loud as the giant creatures till following the truck. It slashed out, and stars glittered in Boz’s vision, his shoulder was numb.
A blinding flash and ear-splitting thunderclap reminded him to breath and he screamed in pain and shock. Skg. Reed was leaning white-knuckled, against his loader, and they let out a cheer for not reason he could comprehend. The ork roared again, but was cut-off mid scream, falling with all of its dead weight on Boz’s legs. The squad wasn’t screaming anymore, except Foreman’s grunts of pain, clutching his shattered leg, they were quiet.
Once he was free from beneath the ork, he saw the creature careening in zig-zags through the forest around them.
“ Krash is up ,” the bead advised, and a couple of soldiers patted Reed on the shoulder. Flashing the “good shot” hand sign. Boz flexed his arm, bleeding, but not broken. He was just about to ask what the hell just happened when the rampaging mountain of muscle appeared in front of the truck.
“ Hold on! ” the same voice from the cab warned, Boz’s eyes went wide as they accelerated towards the animal head-on.
“Empyrean…” he half-whispered, pushing towards the back of the truck. They slammed into the beast, the squad opened fire on the orks still clinging to the ramshackle hut on its back. There was a muffled explosion, and the animal shook the squad’s intestines with its roar. Boz watched it tear apart a stand of trees, whipping its head back and forth.
The truck soon emerged from the trees, back onto the road, and they all trained their weapons rearward until it the orks and their monstrosity were well out of site.
“Mitin, help me with his leg,” Boz scuttled over to the Foreman, whose face was pale and sweaty behind his mask of controlled pain. He pulled the medikit from his web-belt, straightening a bone splint and spraying disinfectant on the leg.
“Grrrrrhgghhhhnn,” Foreman gripped the side of the truck as Mitin held the leg straight and Boz tightly secured the splint with a bandage roll. He could see Olga and Reed doing their best to staunch the bleeding from the remains of Yanov’s right hand, the priest quietly reciting prayers to himself and gripping his aquilla pendent in his good hand.
Mitin pulled a stimpen from the kit and stabbed it into Foreman’s good thigh.
“Why didn’t you do that first?” Foreman growled, finally relaxing a bit. Mitin shrugged, then looked at Boz, particularly his bloody sleeve.
“Yeah,” He sat against the wall next to the Foreman. Mitin slid around and cut his sleeve off with a combat knife.
“Holy Emperor,” the gash was severe, Boz knew that, but he couldn’t see the bulk of it.
“How bad,” he grunted.
“Almost took your arm off, Boz,” Mitin sprayed disinfectant on the wound. Despite the pain spreading across his whole body, the sting of the disinfectant still rose above the rest, “What was that thing?”
“Squiggoth,” Yanov said, sitting-up against the generator, laspistol in his good hand, a boxing glove of bandaging resting on his lap.
“How many of those have they got?” Mitin bit through the linen roll and secured the tail.
“Too many,” Foreman grunted. They spent the rest of the night driving back to base in the slow, lumbering ore hauler. After an hour Boz got sick of looking at the congealing blood, gristle, and shell casings rolling around the truck bed, and went to sit next to Yanov against the generator. He watched the endless, damnable trees roll by under the dull moon and stars.
He missed the clear skies of Novaskag, the crisp air, the brightness and closeness of the stars. There were so few visible here, dwarfed by the roving mini-moons of imperial warships in tactical orbit.
How he longed for a Moshar hunt, or even a simple pipeline patrol. He missed the relative peace of his home. No, that wasn’t the right word. Consistency. Novaskag was a harsher place, death waited for you in every hour. To survive there was to be truly alive, every sense keened, your mind attuned to the land, the air, the tundra grasses every whisper. The breathing of the Moshar, the beat of your own heart, there were those that said the greatest hunters could feel the churning rhythms of Novaskag’s molten core.
So different from this place, from the imperial guard and its months of soft-lived monotony. The days of mind-dulling safety their bases and recreation halls and endless food supplies presented. Was he a softer man? Did this up-and-down cycle of pitched combat and comfort sharpen his blade or corrode it? If they were to return home tomorrow, would he still be the keen leader that had enlisted over half a decade ago?
He hated these questions; he hated having time for these questions. He hated watching squad mates go soft, and die. He hated a sister dying to retrieve a generator for these prancing buffoons while they sat in their armored transports. Most of all, he hated fighting orks.
The eldar had been vicious, but clean. Their weapons killed, better than the orks, but very efficiently. Their blades separated limb from body without the owner noticing for a few moments. More importantly, they had honor, with specific goals, inscrutable as they may have been. The orks were pure savagery. Not just primal, animals were primal, orks were something more. They hacked at limbs, their weapons tore and wrenched their victims apart, instead of cleanly piercing or vaporizing. Their only apparent objective was slaughter, and they were happy to do it.
Perhaps that was the biggest problem Boz had with them. Animals fought for fear or hunger, men fought for the same, usually. The Eldar, no one knew what they fought for, but they were grim in their task. Orks were eager to butcher, eager to die as long as they were butchering or destroying. It was almost as terrifying as the warp.
He must have drifted off to these thoughts, the next thing Boz was aware of was a great shuddering cough reverberating through the truck frame. He looked to the Foreman.
“Out of fuel,” he said quietly, “It’s alright, we’re not far.”
“ Krash is going ahead for help, secure the generator, ” Yanov said calmly over the bead. They all settled in, watching the sun rise through the trees.
Less than an hour later, a cargo truck and ambulances arrived to bring them back to base. Boz slept, thankful for the drug-induced sleep.